Matt Ross (HBO)

After two excellent episodes balanced with two average episodes, Silicon Valley swings its momentum back upward with “Server Space.” It finds some unexplored territory to cover in the question of what Pied Piper’s success means to Erlich’s incubator, as well as the tricky home-to-office ratio they have to balance as the business grows. It creates an excuse to put Richard and Jared together in a more domestic setting, giving the former a new source of stress and peeling back ever more disturbing details about the latter. And it hands the team a much-needed win in the midst of their recent setbacks, while at the same time showing the first cracks in the evil empire opposing them.

All of that is irrelevant, however, in the face of the fact that this is an episode of television that features robot arms which a monkey uses for masturbation. We all know that Silicon Valley is a master of the dick joke after the glorious centerpiece of “Optimal Tip-To-Tip Efficiency,” and while this doesn’t have the levels of planning that went into that joke, it’s ridiculously delightful in the simplicity of landmine survivor Kiko using his new prosthetic limbs to conduct his own research on mean jerk time. The combination of elements—only seeing the activity from behind, Bannerchek’s desperate attempts to justify the value of the tech beyond what it’s being used for, Matt Ross’s increasingly disgusted facial expressions—is perfect comedic alchemy, the highbrow/lowbrow combination of humor that makes Silicon Valley stand out. Plus, monkeys throwing their poop is never not funny, and it makes for the best exclamation point to the scene you could hope for.

Aside from the Hooli XYZ activities—more on that later—“Server Space” is an episode that benefits from the way it restricts the bulk of activities to Erlich’s house. The Silicon Valley team is always at their best when they’re in constant proximity to each other, and while not technically a bottle episode, it takes advantage of the fact that the company’s growth is reducing the personal space for a group of people who don’t have much of it to begin with, egos and elbows constantly bumping into each other. It’s also a problem that, as we establish, won’t be going away anytime soon, a move to relocate to new office space postponed when Hooli’s latest ploy leaves them without a hosting service and without money to cover both options.

While the move to keep the team in the house for the time being is a bit of a contrivance, keeping them there allows more exploration on how there’s almost no delineation between home and office for these guys. “You live in the workplace, but you also work from home. That must be really confusing for you,” Carla aptly sums up in a moment of perfect cannabis clarity. And there’s plenty of that confusion here, ranging from Gilfoyle’s plan to turn the garage into a makeshift server to the reveal that Jared has been living in said garage ever since his voluntary pay cut. It reinforces how much the company remains on a check-to-check basis despite proximity to millions of dollars, keeping Silicon Valley in the HBO mold of comedies where getting by is the order of the day.

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Jared’s situation provides the best comedic payoff, as Richard’s desire to extend charity backfires when his room is the only place Jared can relocate to. These two make for a fun pairing because both are productive and maladjusted in different ways, and here is no exception between Jared’s well-meaning efforts to be reassuring about the suggestion Richard’s stress could lead to bedwetting and that he unknowingly speaks German in his sleep. Thomas Middleditch is so good at reacting to everything Jared does, while Zach Woods is tremendous in every moment but especially as he cheerfully describes the benefits of Kegels. (“I’m doing it right now! Clench, unclench, clench, unclench.”) Given the degree to which the writers love exaggerating and tormenting Jared, it would not surprise me in the least bit to have a reveal that there’s some secret Nazi or even genetic experimentation in his past.

One would think that Erlich would take umbrage at the degree to which Pied Piper is co-opting his residence, but “Server Space” takes advantage of this to reframe his feelings about the matter. His reactions at seeing the team clear out—a brief yet meaningful glance at the now empty table in his living room, the degree to which he goes to try making Richard’s decision to stay for him—exposes his passive-aggressive attitude from “The Lady” as a show, and is the closest we’ve gotten to seeing how he truly feels. Erlich needs to be at the center of things, both to satiate his ego and also because he needs the company. (A company he’s not likely to find in the latest applicants to his incubator, pushing the latest of Silicon Valley’s absurd apps: DogDamnit, a dog-sharing app for Christians.)

Unfortunately, Erlich’s willingness to have them keep their business at his home leads to the not unexpected reveal that technically the business isn’t allowed to be at his home. This zoning violation eventually attracts the attention of Erlich’s next-door neighbor Noah (Frank Collison), who already has some opinions about the home’s residents. I was worried that this was building to another scheme by Hooli or some other third party to poach information from Pied Piper, so it’s a relief to see that Noah is simply a busybody who’s concerned with the quality of people living in the neighborhood. He also gets the best non-monkey-related joke of the night after Dinesh inadvertently fries the server and takes out the block’s power, so determined to make his point clear that he’ll pilot his wheelchair around all the cars when he could just yell it to them. Yet even he’s not immune to the hypocrisy of the area, as his support of “people with pets” is cover for the illegal ferrets he’s housing, news of which gives Erlich and Richard a badly needed win.

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All the stressors that Richard has to go through this week illustrates a major difference between Pied Piper and Hooli—one that could be the deciding factor in their war. Yes, Richard’s involvement in every aspect of the business means that he’s almost sweating through his urethra, but this engagement with Jared and Gilfoyle and Erlich means he’s aware of everything going on in his company. Hooli, by contrast, has grown to such size that while Gavin can singlehandedly blacklist Pied Piper from service providers, he’s so removed from the day-to-day operations that all the little things escape him. Witness his reluctance to tell Bannerchek the real reason why Big Head has to remain in a position of power at Hooli XYZ, a move that could have at least assuaged the other man’s ego. Instead, Bannerchek quits and Big Head becomes sole head dreamer, adding a new level to Josh Brener’s stupified expression.

Even that’s not the biggest potential disaster looming, as Gavin announces that Nucleus will make a sneak preview as the exclusive host of the UFC title fight—an announcement that comes as a shock to the Nucleus team, which is anywhere from six to 15 to infinite weeks behind schedule depending on who you ask. It’s a prescription for disaster, and something else that would never happen at Pied Piper, given not a single one of Richard’s employees fears him enough to avoid delivering bad news. And if things are truly as bad as they seem, Richard may have more wins coming his way, and Gavin may find that Kiko’s achievements aren’t the worst thing his company has going on.

Stray observations:

  • This week’s closing track: Alabama Shakes, “Don’t Wanna Fight.”
  • If we have any German or German-fluent commenters, I’d love to know what Jared’s saying in his sleep. First one to answer gets a shoutout in next week’s review.
  • Always a treat to see Andy Daly return as Silicon Valley’s worst doctor, once again exacerbating Richard’s woes with useless advice. His answer to the question of if bedwetting is medically serious: “No! It’s embarrassing! You’re a grown man, Richard, come on.”
  • Every bit of Erlich giving Richard a kimono as a parting gift was gold, from his reliance on Google Translate and Wikipedia to master the Japanese business traditions to his reaction when Richard doesn’t actually part ways. “Now I’m really pissed! Because if one appreciated a gift of such magnitude, one would put up more of a fight before returning it, wouldn’t one?!”
  • The great thing about Big Head’s potato cannon isn’t just that he’s diverting Hooli XYZ resources to build it, it’s that its shoddy construction betrays just how average at best his technical skills are.
  • Jared, on the plus side of Bill Gates’s efforts to ban the paparazzi from his wedding: “Now, we can imagine that wedding however we want.”
  • Gilfoyle has strong survivalist beliefs in addition to his Satanism. “I think we should dig our own well, build our own generator. I also think we should store years worth of food and ammunition in a blast cellar. But we don’t. So good luck when the shit hits the fan.”
  • “Potbellied pigs have been wildly unfashionable since 2005! Owning a potbellied pig is frowned upon almost as much as being a Christian.”
  • “I sleep dick up!”
  • “Just tell him that you shit your pants and you have weak knees!”
  • “Why are you both wearing kimonos?”

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